Balance

3 Tips to Overcoming Chronic Joint and Muscle Pain

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As a Corrective Exercise Specialist, I believe that the human body has an innate capability to heal itself. Aside from acute trauma or accident related injuries, most chronic pain sufferers in this country are dealing with problems that stem from poor posture and the resulting compromises in movement function.

Compromises in joint position, muscle balance and resulting movement function are a leading cause of symptomatic pain. Western medicine has become a specialized and symptom specific practice. Your back hurts, we treat the back. You have knee pain, we treat the knee.

You might be given NSAIDS, prescriptions or over the counter medications to block pain signals, told to rest or stop a particular movement or exercise entirely, see a chiropractor or request physical therapy on the area. All of these modalities certainly can and do help for a period of time. But if it’s only a symptom focused plan, then you can be sure the pain or episode will return because the underlying root of the problem hasn’t been addressed. Sure enough, you get back to doing life as it was before and something goes awry. The old pain is back and so begins the chronic pain cycle.

Have you ever wondered why?

The body isn’t a collection of separate pieces, muscles and parts. It works as a whole and therefore, must be treated as such. The ability to overcome common chronic muscle and joint pain without medication, manipulation or surgery is possible when you look at the bigger picture of human movement and proper postural positioning.

Say you are a person of with chronic low back pain. Instead of treating back pain symptomatically — doing exercises that focus on just the back — I can guess that your pelvis is sitting out of position and this stems from muscle imbalances that go all the way from the feet and ankles upward through the kinetic chain. Properly assessing the joint position and corresponding muscle imbalances is vital to truly addressing the problem.

If you only treat the pain and symptomatic area without correcting underlying joint and muscle imbalances going up and down stream, I can guarantee that symptomatic pain will eventually return. It’s only a matter of time. On the flip side chronic muscle and joint pain is easy to resolve once imbalances are corrected in your kinetic chain.

The body can heal itself, but…

As stated earlier, you are more than just a body. To truly overcome chronic muscle and joint pain for good, it takes more than just a CES’s ability to assess your posture and create a corrective exercise protocol suited to your unique needs.You must actively participate in the healing process.

Restoring your joint position, muscle balance and improving your posture all do wonders, but if you’ve dealt with chronic pain for a significant amount of time, everything about you — think mind, body, and spirit — have been affected by your pain. Your thought life,  your workouts and activities of daily living, even your relationships and the way you interact with others during the day.

In my experience, once chronic pain sets in and it’s ugly bedfellows arrive like fear, doubt, skepticism, anger, sadness and depression. The connection between thoughts and actions is affected in a powerful and often debilitating way.

I grew up surrounded with a powerful biblical idiom, “Out of the heart the mouth speaks” Luke 6:45.  Basically, that words and thoughts meditated on and spoken out loud have power and affect our actions and habits. This concept is well documented the scientific community as well.  Psychology like the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy (1), Sociology  with the The Looking Glass Self (2), and in pioneering research on the subject of Neuroplasticity (Train Your Brain to Beat Pain) as well.

So in addition to the technical aspects of my job, I believe it is critical to actively listen to the words and phrases my clients speak over themselves.  I look for what I call “red flag” statements like:

  • I can’t do (insert action).
  • There’s no hope for me.
  • I’m broken.
  • I’m too old.
  • This is as good as it will get.
  • I was told I will never (insert action) again.
  • It’s my genetics. I was born this way.
  • I’ve been to everyone and tried everything to get a handle on my pain. Nothing works.
  • I don’t think you can help me because (insert belief).

I love to challenge those thoughts.  My response is usually some variation of:

  • Do you really believe that? Why?
  • Who told you that you can never truly be well?
  • Do you believe that you’re broken? Why is that?
  • Do you think you can’t be fixed?
  • Who spoke that over you?
  • How does that make you feel?
  • Are these thoughts true?

“You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.” – James Allen

If you’ve done and tried it all to get rid of chronic pain without success, I dare you to jump off of the chronic pain merry-go-round. Begin with the physical, that’s the easy part. Find a Certified CES and learn about your human design and function.

Then start the hard work. Get your brain involved in the healing process (6).  Stop and truly meditate and evaluate your thoughts, beliefs and what you speak over your ability to heal. I really believe that what you dwell and meditate upon is what you speak and how your body will respond. And what you think about constantly and speak out loud affects you externally by the things you chose to do or not do.

When it comes down to true healing, I’m not in charge, I’m simply a guide. Ultimately you, the person who knows yourself better than any health expert in the world has to proactively act in order and change in these three key areas in order to fix yourself for good.

Tips to Overcoming Chronic Muscle and Joint Pain

1. Change your reasoning.

What you think (4) and believe about your situation can help or hinder healing.

  • Can you be fixed?
  • Can you be well?
  • Are you forever broken?

2. Change your response.

Take action to stop repeating what caused the problem.

  • Identify and correct your muscle and joint imbalances with the right stimulus and response.
  • Begin moving again with a properly progressed active action plan.
  • Speak and meditate on health and healing and what is better in your day to day function.
  • Remove yourself from relationships or situations that keep you in a negative mindset or movement situation.

3. Change your routine.

Engage and create new habitual behaviors that promote healing.

  • Get quality sleep.
  • Make sure you’re getting enough of the micronutrients you need.
  • Increase hydration.
  • Limit sugar intake.
  • Decrease processed foods and substances that cause an inflammatory response in your system.
  • Implement your corrective exercises to restore your body back to it’s blue-print design and function.

Simply wanting change just isn’t enough. Successful and permanent change like overcoming chronic muscle and joint pain therefore requires a trifecta of action. Your thoughts, actions and habitual patterns are all involved. The good news is this means you have the power to change!  One of my favorite brain science educators and lecturers, Dr. Caroline Leaf (5), sums it up perfectly.

“You can, through conscious effort, gain control of your thoughts and feelings, and in doing so, you can change the programming and chemistry of your brain.” -Dr. Caroline Leaf

References:

  1. The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
  2. The Looking Glass Self:  How Our Self-Image Is Shaped By Society
  3. Neuroplasticity
  4. Healthy Habit #13:  Take Control of Your Thoughts
  5. Dr. Caroline Leaf
  6. Chronic Pain May Be About Rewiring The Brain

 

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